Learning can take place anywhere, not just in the classroom. Summertime offers many opportunities for kids to gain knowledge.You can help them learn by introducing them to three simple tools designed to get them interested in learning, even if they don’t realize that’s what they’re doing.
1. Ask Questions
Sometime during the toddler years, kids go through a “why” phase. They use the question “Why?” to help them figure out the world and everything in it. Unfortunately, many kids quickly grow out of that stage. To help kids learn over the summer, re-introduce them to the art of asking questions. It may seem annoying to have a child who is constantly asking how and why things happen, but when you realize those questions help them learn, it’s much easier to handle.
To help kids learn to ask questions, start by asking questions yourself. For example, if you’re at the zoo and see a zookeeper standing by an animal cage, take the time to ask the zookeeper a question. You don’t have to be at a zoo or museum to ask a question either. Ask questions of people all around you – your mechanic, the teller at the bank, the person stocking shelves in the grocery store. Even if you already know the answer to some of the questions you ask, you’ll show your children how easy it is to ask questions on their own. They’ll also discover that people are usually more than willing to answer the questions they ask.
2. Introduce them to Experts
When it comes to asking questions, one of the best places to find an answer is an expert on the topic of the question. The summer is a great time to help kids gain access to experts in many different career fields, not only to ask questions, but also to observe them as they work. Since
kids aren’t in school all day, they have more time to see how different adults spend their time. While many jobs don’t aren’t ideal for having a kid underfoot, some workplaces may allow children to shadow
a family member or close family friend for a day. Spending a day on the job can help kids learn more than simply reading a book or watching a video. It also gives them access to multiple experts in an industry and many of them will be ready to teach kids what they know.
When it comes to introducing kids to experts, think beyond careers and focus on interests and hobbies, too. For example, if your child is interested in the Civil War, see if you can set up an interview with a local Civil War reenactor. If your child wants to become a stronger swimmer, contact the swim team of a local college and see if a student would be willing to sit down with your child and give him some advice. Many adults who have hobbies would be more than happy to
take some time to sit down with your child and share about their interests.
Don’t forget about classes either. Many groups hold special classes during the summer. If your child is interested in cooking, for example, you may find a cooking class taught by a local chef. If your child likes sports, look for a sports camp that features a professional athlete or coach. These classes often cost money, but the cost is worth it if your child gets to interact
with someone at the top of their field.
3. Watch Videos
Of course sometimes your local area won’t offer special summer classes or experts that are of interest to your child. Thankfully, kids have the internet. Online they can find tons of videos related to their interests, many of them featuring some of the top people in the field. For example, TED Talks and Big Think have been known to feature some of the world’s greatest scientists and thinkers. Websites such as Top Documentary Films also can help kids learn by allowing them to access documentaries for free.
Since it’s summer, you may not want your kids sitting in front of the computer or TV screen all day. That’s where videos from sites like YouTube come in handy. Many YouTube channels (such as these channels for social studies) contain short videos designed to help kids get snippets of knowledge. A simple search for how-to videos can also help kids pick up a new skill by watching short videos. Maybe this summer they’ll learn to play the guitar, take ballroom dancing lessons, or discover how to make homemade ice cream. With millions of how-to videos on YouTube, kids can learn almost anything.
Sure, you want your kids to relax during the summer, but you don’t want them to stop learning. By connecting these tools with other summer learning activities you can ensure kids are being filled with knowledge over the summer.
For more resources to get kids learning on their own this summer, share our Ultimate Guide to Free Online Self-Learning for Kids, which is full of free videos, courses, and other materials to help kids explore their interests and find answers to their most pressing questions.
What tools do you use to help kids learn over the summer? We’d love to hear your ideas!
Science surrounds us and summer offers the perfect time for families to explore science in action. Avoid the summer slump and try some of these suggestions for summer science adventures with your child. Most of these activities are low-cost or free, but be sure to check with your local library before heading out to learn about free and discount passes to museums and other local attractions.
1. Participate in a Citizen Science Project
Science is collaborate by nature, so join in and lend a hand by participating in a citizen science project. Project participants support scientific research by:
- Classifying the shapes of galaxies (see Galaxy Zoo),
- Extracting weather data from old whaling logbooks (see Old Weather – Whaling),
- Collecting ants (see School of Ants),
- Monitoring monarch larva populations (see Monarch Larva Monitoring Project).
These are just a few of citizen science projects looking for volunteers and many welcome help from children working with the guidance of an adult. Search for other citizen science projects at Zooniverse and SciStarter.
2. Become a National Park Service Junior Ranger
With parks from Maine to California and everywhere in-between, the National Park Service offers an affordable option for hands-on summer science fun. Fourth grade students qualify for free annual park passes through the Every Kid in a Park program. The Junior Rangers Program gives kids the opportunity to explore nature, attend ranger guided programs, and complete activities for each park. If your budding park ranger completes a Junior Ranger Program, each park offers a patch or badge and a certificate of completion. Can’t visit a particular park? Visit the NPS’s on-line WebRangers page.
3. Visit a Science Center
There are many fabulous science museums that offer kids access to interactive learning opportunities. For those fortunate enough to be within driving distance to a NASA center, consider a visit. Learn about space exploration, aeronautics, and ongoing missions and discoveries. Many of the centers, including Johnson Space Center in Houston, TX, Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, FL, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA, welcome visitors and offer tours. If you can’t travel to a visitor center, then be sure to visit NASA Wavelength and explore the vast collection of educational resources NASA has to offer.
With centers across the nation, the Audubon Society provides outdoor adventure for all ages. Visit a sanctuary, go on a hike, and explore the local lands and wildlife. Many centers offer nature themed programs designed exclusively for children and families as well as summer camps. Centers are open to the public, but those with memberships may visit for free and receive discounts on programs and camps. Find an Audubon Center near you.
4. Try Hands-On Science Activities
Hands-on science activities at home are a great way to have some summer fun, spend family time together, and even learn a little something new. Science at home is affordable and typically can be conducted with household objects and resources. Follow your child’s lead and try experiments related to his or her interests. Get started with these science activities for kids or browse this collection of home science activities from Scientific American.
5. Star Watch
Grab a blanket and the bug spray and head outside for some star gazing. If possible, get away from light pollution, you will be amazed at what you can see once your eyes adjust to the dark on a clear night. Bring a star chart and try to locate a few stars, planets, constellations, and galaxies. Use binoculars to identify surface features of the moon. If that isn’t spectacular enough for your aspiring astronomer, try counting the number of “shooting stars” during a meteor shower. August’s Perseids meteor shower is a great one to enjoy on a warm summer evening. Check out this year’s not-to-miss celestial events to watch with kids.
Looking for more ideas for summer fun with your children? Be sure to read 100 Summer Activities for Kids!
The summer months bring relief and joy for students, but also lots of free time to be filled. There is no better way to spend these hours and days than with a book, especially one that educates. Below are book recommendations based on age and genre that will help keep your child or student busy and engaged throughout the summer.
Activity Book: “The Complete Book of U.S. History”
This book clocks in at over 350 pages and is chock full of exercises and activities to keep young minds sharp. (Ages 8 and up)
African-American Studies: “What Color is My World?: The Lost History of African-American Inventors” by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld
NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar writes of obscure African – American inventors in this well-illustrated story. (Ages 8 and up)
Presidential: “So You Want to Be President?” by Judith St. George
Does your little one ever wonder what it takes to become president? St. George chronicles every president in an interesting and humorous manner, accompanied by wonderful illustrations. (Ages 6–8)
Biography: “The Story of Ruby Bridges” by Robert Coles
The story of the first African American child to integrate Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans. (Ages 4-8)
Culture: “Homes Around the World” by Max Moore
Learn about different and unusual residences around the world. (Ages 5–7)
Historical Fiction: “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” by John Boyne.
This acclaimed book introduces the Holocaust in a gentle manner and opens the door to discussion about such a sensitive topic.
Mystery: Chasing Lincoln’s Killer” by James L. Swanson.
This is a young adult version of “manhunt”, the same author’s account of the search for President Lincoln’s assassin. “Chasing Lincoln’s Killer” uses trial manuscripts and interviews to build a compelling and completely true thriller.
US History: “Don’t Know Much About History” by Kenneth C. Davis
This updated edition of the bestseller that answers all of your questions about American history in a very entertaining way.
Current Events: “I am a SEAL Team Six Warrior: Memoirs of an American Soldier” by Howard E. Wasdin and Stephen Templin
Learn the grueling training involved in joining the unit who found Osama bin Laden in this firsthand account from former Team Six member and author, Howard Wasdin.
World History Compilation: “A Little History of the World” by E.H. Gombrich
With illustrations on every page, Gombrich brings history to life for young adults.
The summer allows students to learn at their own pace and explore topics that interest them. Interesting and educational books are just the recipe to feed a hungry mind. You can also get kids interested in Social Studies websites and movies to help keep them learning throughout the summer.Got other suggestions for this list? Share them with others by commenting below.
World Oceans Day is June 8th and there is still time to celebrate! Put on a blue shirt and forge ahead with these ten fun ways to celebrate World Oceans Day with your class or family.
1. Skipper your crew to a World Oceans Day event in your area. From art contests to film festivals to hands-on exhibits, there are ocean activities taking place around the world.
2. Navigate your way to the World Oceans Day website and check out their last minute celebration ideas. Find ways to help keep plastic out of oceans and landfills with your students or family.
3. Google is charting new territory with its Oceans Street View images. Allow students to explore this stunning collection.
4. Set course to Adrift.org and challenge students to predict the path of floating pollution before they try this engaging interactive.
5. The Smithsonian has made great headway in compiling this diverse collection of ocean-related lesson plans for educators.
6. For landlubbers who can’t venture out to sea, dive into an ocean-themed book for a reading adventure worthy of the high seas. Get started with one of these nautical tales.
Nautical Novels and Seaworthy Stories
The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
Swimmy by Leo Lionni
Flotsam by David Wiesner
Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater (Worksheet)
Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (Worksheet)
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Billy Budd by Herman Melville
The Pearl by John Steinbeck (Worksheet)
Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
The Odyssey by Homer (Worksheet)
The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
7. Ahoy! Teachers, students, and families can join an Ocean Guardian Program and plan a school or community conservation project, submit ocean-themed artwork, stories, or poetry, and even become involved in diving!
8. If you are swamped with lesson planning, check out Help Teaching’s collection of pre-made, ocean-themed worksheets. Or, have your students try our online lessons on Ocean Vocabulary Words, Ocean Zones, Tsunamis, or Tides.
9. Set your bearings to your local aquarium. Students of all ages will enjoy viewing and interacting with the amazing variety of sea life on display.
10. Head to the beach! What better way to celebrate World Oceans Day than by digging in the sand, discovering tide pools, and surfing the waves?
Have other suggestions for celebrating World Oceans Day with students and children? Share them in the comments! Read The Ultimate Guide to Teaching Science for more ways to invigorate your science curriculum and teaching.
Even though school’s out and band directors aren’t hounding anyone to practice, it’s very important to maintain your musical skills during the summer. Don’t put off practicing until “tomorrow,” because soon tomorrow will become the first day of the new school year and the musical “lip” will be lost. Once the lip is lost, it’s hard to find it, no matter how much time is spent looking for it.
It only takes 10 minutes a day to keep up musical momentum, particularly if honing skills, rather than halfheartedly playing familiar songs over and over is the focus. Seriously, ten minutes! While it may not seem like much, it can be very effective. We have many ideas to help keep up the musical skill level that kids have attained during the school year.
The 10-Minute Practice
Spend 10 minutes a day on one of the following exercises, or a combination of exercises, can help keep a musician in tip-top musical shape. Note, if using a combination of exercises, spend at least 2.5 minutes on each exercise to benefit musical muscles. Alternating days on exercises is fine, too. Any practice is better than no practice.
1. Long Tones
Long tones are exactly what the term sounds like: holding tones for a long time. Starting off in the easiest range of the instrument (voices count!) is best, and the note chosen should be held as long as possible. Seeing spots means it’s too long, but having a lot of air left over means the tone isn’t held long enough. Long tones help keep the embouchure in shape and the lungs strong.
2. Practice with Volume
Playing high notes softly requires quite a bit of control on an instrument, and even the most non-musically inclined person can instantly tell the difference between a “good” high note and a “bad” one. If a high note is played with too much volume the sound will distort and crack (and babies will scream, dogs will bark, and glasses will break). Keep the corners of the mouth firm when blowing high notes and, over time, notes will become easier to play and nicer to hear.
3. High Note Practice Using Register/Octave Key (Woodwinds)
The best method for woodwind players to practice high notes and keep control is to play a low note first, and then add the register or octave key for the higher pitch. Start with the lowest note, then lift one finger at a time while blowing from low to high. For a challenge, start from high, then play to low.
4. Blowing High Notes (Brass)
A common mistake younger brass players make is thinking high notes mean a LOT of air and a LOT of pressure, when the opposite is true. Low notes use more air than high notes on all wind instruments. The secret to playing well-controlled high notes is using a small amount of air while blowing out a fast and narrow air stream. One way to test air flow is to hold the index finger 8 inches in front and try to blow on the fingernail. The air on the nail will feel like a small breeze blowing all around, and if it were a real candle, it will remain lit.
There is a noticeable difference in air flow when putting the same finger less than an inch in front of the lips and blowing at the fingernail. The air will feel like a straight, narrow, pointed beam of cold air. Notice how the embouchure changed when blowing far away and close to the lips. When playing high notes, aim for the thin, stream of cold air.
5. Buzzing (Brass)
Brass players can “buzz” into the mouthpieces to keep up facial muscle strength. Putting the lips tightly together and blowing to make a “bzzz” sound is the first step in learning the instrument, and keeping up the embouchure. It’s not as easy as it sounds, as the lips need to remain straight, and the “bzzz” sound should sound consistent. This needs to be done through the mouthpiece while taking breaks when the lips become tired.
6. Silent Fingering
Need something quiet to do? Try silent fingering. The mouthpiece or reed is not needed for this exercise. The instrument should be held with proper posture, while the fingers move up and down the keys. Use the same pressure on the keys as if this were “real” playing. Moving the fingers up and down the keys will build up muscle strength and technique. This can be done with or without looking at music.
7. Silent Tonguing
Silent tonguing doesn’t mean sticking your tongue out at anyone, but rather instrumental tonguing practice. This can be done with just the mouthpiece while watching TV, or with just the mouth alone. If using a mouthpiece, blow softly. Combine this with silent fingering for a double challenge.
8. Learn a New Piece
Open up to the challenge of learning a new piece of music this summer, one that is at a higher level than normal. Work through a small section at a time until it is mastered. Working small instead of playing the piece from front to back over and over will ensure a better understanding of the music. Picking different sections to work on at a time rather than playing the music in order can help stave off boredom.
9. Sight Read
The lungs, hands, fingers, lips, and tongue aren’t the only things that need practice, the brain needs it too! Sight reading is the ability to read through music correctly (or close to it) upon first sight. Some musicians are better at this than others, and this is because they can read music differently than others. Many musicians look at every note individually, rather than ahead at each measure. Instead of seeing four eighth notes, think of 2 sets of 2 notes. Four groups of sixteenth notes are easier to grasp quickly than counting sixteen eighth notes. Grab some new music and play through it without stopping. Do this a few times over a week, and then go back and look at the music and notice any patterns in rhythms or notes.
10. Have a Recital or Talent Show
Arrange a recital in the garage or back yard for friends and neighbors. A month ahead of time invite friends to play or perform, and invite other friends to be in the audience. Throw in a few programs, punch, and cookies and there’s one happening music party. Not only will this be memorable and fun, but the crowd will be wowed by the techniques that have been practiced!
Keep it Up!
Practicing shouldn’t be a drag or a chore, but rather a fun challenge. It’s easy to become frustrated when playing an instrument, and everyone fumbles and occasionally makes mistakes. By working through trouble spots diligently, progress will be quickly made. Practicing 10 minutes a day, five days a week, for two and a half months, clocks in 500 minutes worth of practice, which is almost eight and a half hours! Adding just a few more minutes to the day will make even more of a difference.